Goggle's Street View contested in Europe

By EDRi · May 20, 2009

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: [Europa: Widerstand gegen Googles Street View | http://www.unwatched.org/node/1401]

Macedonian: [Гугл Стрит Вју оспорен во Европа | http://www.metamorphosis.org.mk/mk/vesti/edri/1501-gugl-strit-vju-osporen-vo-evropa]

Google continues to face problems with its Street View service. The Greek
data protection agency has banned Street View until it receives
“additional information” from Google. The agency wishes to know the duration
for which the images are kept on Google’s database and what measures the
company will take to make people aware of privacy rights.

Google does not appear worried by the action of the Greek authority stating
they do not consider it a banning. “We have received a request for further
information and we are happy to continue discussing these issues with them.
We will discuss with them whether it is appropriate for us to continue
driving in the meantime. Although that dialogue is ongoing, we believe that
launching in Greece will offer enormous benefits to both Greek users and the
people elsewhere who are interested in taking a virtual tour of some of its
many tourist attractions.”

At the same time, the company wished to reiterate its commitment to take
measures to protect citizens’ privacy: “Google takes privacy very seriously,
and that’s why we have put in place a number of features, including the
blurring of faces and licence plates, to ensure that Street View will
respect local norms when it launches in Greece.”

Simon Davies, director of Privacy International considers the Greek action
as a very good precedent. “This is fantastic news. The Greek regulators
understand the risks of future technology creep. They have watched what has
happened in the US and UK very carefully and will be familiar with the
arguments on both sides. This highlights the difference between regulators –
some will allow the public space to be exploited, others acknowledge that
people’s privacy needs to be protected. Now we wait for the domino effect,
as the Greek decision sets an example that others may follow – we will see
what happens next in Central Europe.”

In the meantime, Street View has become active in Prague while the service’s
legality in the Czech Republic is still unclear. Filip Pospísil, a privacy
expert with EDRi-member Iuridicum Remedium believes blurring techniques are
not sufficient as there are still concerns related to the angles and
distances of the pictures.

Street View as well as also other new Internet services is bringing up
certain discrepancies between privacy laws and the technological advances.
“As is usual, everyday reality and technical progress is ahead of the
legislator,” said Milana Chamberlain, a partner at law firm Norton Rose. In
her opinion, the relevant legislation should be amended to cope with the
progress of the technology.
“In our view the borderline (between personal freedoms and protection of
privacy) is very subjective and depends on when people start to feel
offended by the fact that their face appears on the internet without their
consent or when they suffer harm because somebody saw them where they did
not want to be seen,” said Chamberlain.

Facing complaints about privacy invasion with Street View in Japan, Google
stated it would re-shoot all Japanese pictures by using lower camera angles
so that images from private properties might not appear in pictures. And
although Google also said it has blurred car number plates in the pictures
as it has done in Europe, Japanese privacy campaigners are still concerned
about Street View system shooting images unselectively.

Greece puts brakes on Street View (12.05.2009)

Google’s snapshots of Prague raise privacy issues (21.04.2009)

Google re-shoots Japan scenes after privacy complaints (13.05.2009)

UK: Google’s Street View does not breach the Data Protection Act (6.05.2009)